Discovering a partner's infidelity is one of the most painful experiences a person can face. The shock, denial, hurt and anger that follow the revelation of a physical or emotional affair or sexual acting out can feel overwhelming. For the partner who committed the infidelity, admitting this breach of trust can bring a flood of emotions such as shame, guilt, defensiveness and even relief. Being able to process together what happened and why is essential to personal and relationship recovery. Here are answers to common questions couples ask:
"Is there hope for us?"
While the path to rebuilding an intimate relationship in the aftermath of infidelity can feel rocky and uncertain, there is good reason to be hopeful if both people are willing to stay open to talking and to the possibility of change in the wake of heartbreak. Couples can and do repair their relationships after infidelity, and in many cases feel their relationship is "stronger than ever".
How can we rebuild trust?
The saying, "Trust is lost in buckets and regained in drops" applies here. Over time, through the consistency of actions matching words, keeping promises made and holding oneself accountable, the partner who has misstepped can rebuild trust. Such things as allowing your partner to check your phone or put a tracking app or device on it, giving them access to your email, having more contact during the day than usual and answering their questions non-defensively will help rebuild trust. Ending the relationships in question on social media and in real time that trigger your partner's pain response help. Doing things that help your partner feel you are "putting them first" help rebuild trust. Gradually your partner can feel reassured and their need to "check up and check in" will ease. Transparency and rigorous honesty are essential. A helpful resource is Janis Abrahms Spring's book "After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner has Been Unfaithful."
Can I ever forgive my partner?
Yes. This does not mean forgetting about what happened, rather it means understanding how the infidelity had space to occur in your relationship and knowing what you and your partner are doing to close the space between you and strengthen your bond with each other. Learning new ways to communicate feelings openly and resolve and repair your bond when conflict occurs are key to this end.
How do I know if my partner is a sex addict?
Having an emotional or physical affair is not, in and of itself, a sign that your partner is a sex addict. If either of you are concerned that this might be the case however, it can be helpful to have a sex addictions specialist do an assessment. There are excellent recovery programs and help for sex addiction, and websites like iitap.com or sexhelp.com can help you find Certified Sex Addiction therapists.
In summary, in the aftermath of the pain and heartbreak of infidelity there IS reason to have hope for rebuilding a new and deeper intimacy between you. The work and time you invest in yourself and relationship can result in a better relationship, perhaps better than you ever thought possible!